I have been taking photographs for well over 50 years, since I was very young. I have been taking them with a digital camera for the last twelve.
When I first went digital in 2004, I was overwhelmed by the information and skills I needed to acquire. My professional credentials as a photographer were seriously suspect. I faked it, and hoped not to blow things too badly. I started a daily photo blog as a mechanism to get good at a workflow. If I made myself shoot every day, and post a photo every day, I would eventually regain that unconscious fluency in the process of image making that I felt I had lost.
It appears I forgot to stop. I haven’t missed posting a photo a day in over 11 years. That is 4,097 posts. I dare not break the chain now.
I carry a camera with me much of the time (a real camera, not that fake iPhone one). No matter what else is going on in my life, I make a photograph. If I’m on assignment, it’s from that. If I’m homebound, it’s often my garden. If I go shopping, I might photograph the produce. If I go dancing, I bring the camera. When I take my mother-in-law to the doctor, I scour the exam room for photos. If I’m sick with the flu, I make a photograph of the sickbed.
This daily discipline of finding a photo worth posting is now the core of my creative process. I know how to quickly enter the zone, that state of being where one is alert to any possibility, The camera both narrows and expands the sense of being in a place. In order to frame a coherent set of shapes and lines that feels complete, it requires entering literally another state of consciousness.
Photography is not about subject for me, even if the evidence bears witness that certain subjects are more interesting to me than others. I make photographs in the most convenient surroundings. But I am largely indifferent regarding what I shoot. The point of my photographs is not necessarily the subject of them. My favorite quote on the matter is from Frederick Sommers: “Subject matter is harmless, but it can be charming to the point of distraction from other elements.”
What I take that to mean is, if all you see is the subject, it won’t work. Those other elements, line, shape, light, position—the pieces that make a photograph “work”—are the data stream of the moment that in this odd alchemy of presence and technology make it possible to create a compelling photograph. They make us care about the subject.
What I look for when I have a camera in hand is a state of feeling, inside myself, that finds some congruency with the external reality. Putting a frame around that reality and making a decision regarding moment intensifies and deepens that sense of connection with place or relationship. I feel as though I dive down into an altered state of awareness, acquire the goods for the day, and then resurface. Then I pop the card into the computer to see what I saw down there.
And I do it every day.